The Pininfarina Battista Is a Blast From the Future


It’s not just an existential crisis; it’s an opportunity. And the $2.4-million, all-electric, 1877-horsepower Pininfaria Battista is what results when a crisis and an opportunity collide.

After creating production Ferraris from 1951 (a 212 Inter Cabriolet) through 2012 (the F12), the house of Pininfarina was pushed aside. Sure, there were promises of future collaborations on a specialty, one-off basis, but every current Ferrari series has been designed in-house by Centro Stile Ferrari. So far, since the F12 faded out in 2017, it seems to be going pretty good for Ferrari. How it will be going for Pininfarina rests on the carbon fiber shoulders of this battery-packed swagger stick. This short exposure—a few miles running up above Palm Springs, California and a few laps around the 2.68-mile desert road course at not-that-glamorous Chuckwalla Valley Raceway in a close-to-production prototype—is our first chance to experience what Pininfarina hath wrought.

pininfarina battista

Pininfarina

First, the Battista doesn’t come from Carrozeria Pininfarina, the design firm which has been crafting passionate objects of vehicular lust since 1930. Instead, it’s a product of Automobili Pininfarina, which was formed in 2018 with the express purpose of establishing a commercial line of electric cars. The Pininfarina design studios are still in Cambiano, Italy. Meanwhile Automobili Pininfarina has established its headquarters in Munich, Germany. That in mind, few car companies today are defined by mere nation-state borders. Automobili Pininfarina is staffed by Greeks and Italians and Germans and Americans; the CEO, Per Svantesson, is Swedish. Much of the essential engineering comes roaring out of Croatia’s Rimac and most of the money is from India’s Mahindra.

Second, the Battista is not the first Pininfarina-branded production car. That honor belongs to the Spider Azzurra, a continuation run of the Fiat 124 Sport Spider sold under the Pininfarina name between the 1983 and 1985 model years. The Azzurra packed 102 hp from its fuel injected, 2.0-liter version of Fiat’s renowned Aurelio Lampredi-designed four; Carrozeria Pininfarina sold maybe 4000 Azzurras in the U.S.

pininfarina battista

Pininfarina

Automobili Pininfarina only plans to build 150 Battistas for the entire world.

While the Battista looks like a mid-engine supercar, it isn’t. Instead, it uses four electric motors, one at each wheel, and a massive T-shaped battery pack. At some level, the Battista’s form factor is a comforting costume. It looks the way it does because that’s the way exotic cars are supposed to look. How an electric vehicle with nearly 2000 hp would look if its form strictly followed function remains open to speculation.

For a car coming from the company that drew so many beautiful cars for other brands, the Battista seems a bit … generic. It’s good looking, but kind of safe. Expected. Not quite daring.

pininfarina battista

Pininfarina

Even before it has moved, the Battista literally vibrates in anticipation. That’s because Pininfarina has equipped this monster with speakers that hum out a musical note to add character and drama to the proceedings. In an age where nearly every performance car pumps synthetic engine noise into the cabin, this isn’t quite the betrayal it might seem to be. After all, a silent supercar would be too sneaky for its own good. You don’t want a car with a 217-mph top speed silently approaching traffic.

Still, if the Battista is going to have some sound, why not the Looney Tunes theme? Or better yet, that bullet-like whoosh the Road Runner makes every time he takes off after the Coyote experiences another mishap.

pininfarina battista

Pininfarina

The doors open in that funky flying way supercar doors are supposed to open, and once the thick carbon-fiber sill has been summited, it’s a comfortable cockpit. Not lavish in any traditional luxury car way, but rather, slightly stark in a tailored Armani-like cleanliness. The driver faces three flat-screen displays, two large ones flanking an iPhone-sized center screen whose major function is as a speedometer. The steering wheel is thick rimmed and flattened at top and bottom. In the footwell are beautifully cast aluminum brake and accelerator pedals and a dead pedal for the left foot to brace against. Much of the interior is finished in the raw carbon fiber that makes up the car’s tub.

Because there’s virtually no insulation between the carbon fiber and the driver’s body, the Battista has a true mechanical feel. There are computers moderating everything—the torque-vectoring dance between the four motors, the steering assist and brake feel and, yes, that sound—but Pininfarina engineers have decided to keep the Battista’s occupants fully aware of the physical sensations contained by all that processing power. At its base, this is a 4400-pound sled throwing itself across the planet with incredible rapidity. No one pays $2.4 million to never feel the Battista’s insane exploration of physic limits.

pininfarina battista

Pininfarina

Charging times and range matter a lot in most electric cars. But this is no Tesla or Chevy Bolt. Practical concerns are left to the hired help trailing behind the Battista in the support vehicles. There’s virtually no luggage space, because the bodyguards have plenty of room in the Range Rover. Pininfarina expects a range of about 230 miles in EPA testing; enough zap to run from, say, San Diego to Santa Barbara, with enough charge left to putter around to a few wineries. It’s unlikely owners will wait around for all 6960 lithium-ion cells to fully charge—the worker bees will have to wait for the thing to fill up at a modest 180-kW pace.

Poking along in the low-po “Calma” mode, the Battista feels something like a very low-slung golf cart. It’s plenty quick for trawling through Palm Springs, but there’s never any feeling of eagerness or excitement. There’s some tire noise, varying with the road surface, and when a pebble hits the carbon structure, there’s an audible ricochet. This is not an isolation chamber.

pininfarina battista

Pininfarina

Climbing up out of the city into the surrounding hills, the Battista’s potential becomes apparent. Chasing a Tesla pace car, the achievement here is steering feel. There’s some movement on the wheel from the torque-vectoring algorithm, but the Pininfarina engineers have precisely mapped the electronic power steering to counter any overboost. Some credit may also go to the Rimac team that put together the base calculations upon which the Pininfarina is built.

And great god of acceleration, this thing feels like it reaches escape velocity with blinding suddenness. There’s so much torque, it feels like the standard pound-foot is wearing a size 14 clodhopper. It’s the sort of overwhelming twist that makes drivers tense their necks to fight being strangled, the sort of thrust that has gives passengers a new curve in their spines. It’s astonishing.

pininfarina battista

Pininfarina

On the track—and this is a very limited exposure—the Battista’s limits seem out around Neptune. Maybe there’s a way to explore the edge of this car’s capabilities on a track like Monza, where the curves are long and straights generous. But on a tight course like Chuckwalla, forget it. It has traction like a rocket-propelled salamander climbing up an endless strip of fly paper. Pushed just right the tail will wag out like a happy husky’s and tuck back in under the slightest correction. It’s entertaining as Hell’s own multiplex.

And yet, even knowing so many computers are at work, it doesn’t feel like a moderated machine. It may well be that this car is better at delivering excitement than the driver can be aware of. A Ferrari V-12 makes more vivid sounds; a supercharged GM V-8 is more brutally engaging; and virtually any internal combustion-powered machine is more of a challenge. But there’s a lot of fun to be had here, as long as the batteries are charged and there’s a road ahead worth dominating.

pininfarina battista

Pininfarina

Pininfarina has no racing heritage of its own. The Azzurra isn’t a prominent player on the collector car scene. And without Ferrari’s marketing power, maybe the Battista will fade into the background, just another multi-million dollar supercar fighting for attention in a market segment so rarefied, it’s astonishing to see the number of players are in it. After a brief and delectable taste of this car, however, the most comforting thought that comes out of the experience is this: Electric cars will not be indistinguishable from one another.

The Battista, named after company founder Battista Pininfarina, should be delivered to its first buyers early in 2022.

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